Tag Archives: Brittany Rea

When Jewelry Isn’t “Just Jewelry”

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

Installation shot from Beyond Ornamental

I don’t wear jewelry, however, I will often see amazing jewelry come in to the gallery shop at Main Street Arts and I will try it on just to make sure. Wearing it isn’t for me, no matter how hard I try! (I do this all the time, just ask Sarah. I even did it today) However, the idea that I am drawn to it always sticks with me. I see many of the pieces as something to look at and think about, just like any other art form. That is the impetus for our current exhibition, Beyond Ornamental.

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

A sculptural necklace by Myung Urso and brooch by Loraine Cooley

While jewelry is certainly meant to be worn, there are other aspects of this art form that are even more interesting to me. Thinking about the craft of jewelry making, I have such an appreciation for the often minute details that must be considered. The forming of links for chains, cutting shapes out of metal, shaping and polishing stones, threading beads into ornate patterns… These are things that the average person may not consider when they look at handcrafted jewelry, but that is what makes one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces different from their mass-produced counterparts. These things were all made by the hands of the maker in their studio and they are special for that reason.

"Domentzia Collar" by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

“Domentzia Collar” by Ashley Landon-Halabuda

Jewelry often transcends being strictly functional and becomes an art object in its own right—a painting, a sculpture. There may be some kind of narrative or meaningful symbolism behind the work. Loraine Cooley often uses the shape of a boat as a symbol to represent the journey each of us takes throughout our lives. Some pieces may have very specific titles that make you recall historical people or  events. Ashley Landon-Halabuda titled one of her more ornate pieces in the show, Domentzia Collar, referencing an Empress from the Byzantine Empire.

"Brown Coil Zulu Necklace" by Katie Nare

“Brown Coil Zulu Necklace” by Katie Nare

The materials may be chosen for very specific reasons, as with Myung Urso who uses Asian inks—among many other materials—as a way to connect to her birthplace of South Korea where she learned the techniques of Korean calligraphy. The patterns could reference those found in another culture, as in the work of Katie Nare. Her passion for travel is a way for her to celebrate the diversity of the human experience.

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Ulterior Triple Band Double Finger Ring by Brittany Rea

Sometimes, jewelry can be about the experience of actually wearing it. The work of Brittany Rea is sculptural and interacts with the body in ways that won’t let you forget that you are wearing jewelry. Other times, it can be strictly about whats happening on or in between the surface(s), as with Heather Bivens‘ enamel glass work where lifelike insects seem to rest on the neck of the wearer, causing a second glance from passersby.

Brown Recluse

Brown Recluse Necklace by Heather Bivens (will get second glances for sure)

All of this is to say that jewelry isn’t “just jewelry”, it is another way to communicate ideas through artwork. So, whether you are an avid jewelry collector or if you are like me and you’re contemplating buying brooches to frame and add to your art collection, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to this exhibition before it closes.


Beyond Ornamental features work by 6 jewelry artists from our region. Work from the exhibition can be previewed and purchased through the gallery’s online shop. Beyond Ornamental runs through August 16, 2019.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Brittany Rea

My interest in art started before my memories truly do. I was raised in Branchburg, NJ, a small town in Northern Central New Jersey. Growing up I had incredibly supportive parents and a slew of amazing art teachers who showed me the importance and allure of art. I have since spent most of my post-high school life moving throughout New York State and had a short stay in California for an artist residency at the Sonoma Community Center.

Photo Credit: bridget Hagen, 2016

Photo Credit: bridget Hagen, 2016

Art has been one of the few constants in my life, though its meaning in my life has evolved over the years. Growing up I enjoyed drawing mostly in pastel, which led to painting, which led to going to art school. I took classes as a high school student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and attended a vocational school where I spent many hours of my day in a classroom specially focused on graphic design and fine art. I attended Pratt at Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute for Art Education which would lead me directly to my dream school, Pratt Art Institute. While at PrattMWP I took my first ceramics wheel class, which changed my entire path. The mesmerizing and meditative qualities of clay instantly captivated me. My professor, Bryan McGrath, encouraged me to apply to the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, one of the top ceramics schools in the country. I started at Alfred the following semester. Here, I also found a love for sculpture, specifically creating room installations, and clay and sculpture were my concentrations for the remainder of my higher education, continuing all the while with a minor in Art Education.

Healing Memory 2013

Healing Memory 2013

As Above, So Below 2013

As Above, So Below 2013

Upon graduation, I began working at the Creative Studios of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, NY and began working as the Production Assistant for my former professor and immense talent, Kala Stein. While her assistant, Kala was hired as the Ceramics Director at the Sonoma Community Center in Sonoma, California. She encouraged me to apply for the technician position, and  through this application I was offered a six month artist residency at Sonoma Ceramics, where my more recognizable jewelry design style and work was born.

Photo Credit Nicoletta Camerin

Photo Credit Nicoletta Camerin

I had been working with a jeweler, Marisa Krol of Interstellar Lovecraft, while in Rochester prior to my residency, working to learn the basics of jewelry making. I had always been interested in making jewelry, and grew up creating simple pieces for my family and myself. Ironically enough, I was enrolled in a Small Metals class while at PrattMWP but decided to continue on with another ceramics class instead- just shows how things can come full circle! While I was in Sonoma I decide to try my hand at making wearable clay jewelry.

Then v. Now

Then v. Now

This original work was based off of sketches I was doing from rocks and shells I had found while in Maine at Haystack Mountain School of Craft working as a Studio Assistant to David Eichelberger. These first pieces were not the strongest, but I felt I was onto something, so I persisted.

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Using Nichrome Wire to make small attachments and simple adornments on my jewelry designs, I continued to push this idea further by layering the thin wire and playing with the negative/positive space it created. I started using Cassius Clay, a cone 5 clay that fires black, to contrast the use of the chrome-colored wire.

Nicoletta Camerin

Nicoletta Camerin

Wanting to continue with this method of making but also having an urge to work larger, I began making hundreds of these small, pendant-like pieces to create an installation.

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intro|spectate 2016

intro|spectate 2016

intro|spectate, Self + Sonder, and 10 Suggestions are collections of work by Brittany Rea with a central focus on introspection and the inadvertent impact we have on those around us. The object-hood of this work is one facet of its existence while the awareness of self and the unidentified other are consequential.

Through the use of vitreous black clay embellished with delicately crafted metallic wire, Rea exemplifies the idea of inherent beauty. The use of open space invites the viewer to look beyond the materiality of the objects to further examine their abstract significance. The duality of intro|spectate creates two experiences: one of material, one of spectator.

This exhibition is about reflection brought by looking and seeing, both within and without and is the culmination of Rea’s time spent as the Resident Artist at the Sonoma Community Center.“ (Artist Statement from exit show)

intro|spectate (detail)

intro|spectate (detail)

intro|spectate (detail)

intro|spectate (detail)

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Upon returning to Rochester I was offered a residency at the Adorned Studios – joining the amazing forces of Interstellar Lovecraft and Inner Loop Design Co.

The Adorned Studio -I'm pictured with Amber Dutcher of Inner Loop Design Co (center) and Marisa Krol of Interstellar Lovecraft (right) photo credit Arielle Ferraro

The Adorned Studio -I’m pictured with Amber Dutcher of Inner Loop Design Co (center) and Marisa Krol of Interstellar Lovecraft (right) photo credit Arielle Ferraro

At this time I found that a lack of easy access to kilns would drastically alter my studio process, so I started to delve further into metal fabrication.

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This is when I started to push my ideas as a designer, and started using more quality materials such as sterling silver. Even with this new process, I wanted to maintain the aesthetic of the work I was making in California, so I began using polymer clay.

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This material was easily malleable meaning I could form it to be seamless within my designs, and I didn’t have to wait for a kiln to cool, so the turnover time was incredible!

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I could start and finish a piece in one day – never before was that a possibility with clay.

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Polymer was a great material to use for a time, but I wanted to continue to grow and use more sophisticated, quality materials.

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I started incorporating gemstones into my work, and am continuing to push this further. In the past few months I’ve enjoyed using my work for a greater good.

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(JBOS Series – Proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and a breast cancer survivor)

I started to make lines devoted to specific causes with proceeds being donated to different foundations and causes.

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One Collective Heart (Proceeds are divided and donated to the Americans Civil Liberties Union, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Natural Resource Defense Council).

I hope to continue pushing my abilities, and using my work for the betterment of those and that which surround me. I am currently moving into a new studio situation and am looking forward to the inspiration new beginnings can bring!

Photo credit Bridget Hagen 2016

Photo credit Bridget Hagen 2016

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Stop by Main Street Arts to see Brittany’s jewelry in our gallery shop. Visit Brittany’s website at www.brittanyrea.com and follow Brittany on Instagram @rea.designs to see her artwork, process, and even some travel photos! Find Brittany on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brittanyreajewelryandart.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by local artist Andy Reddout.